If you’re someone who counts down the hours to payday, a spending detox may be an adjustment that can help you on the road to taking control of your finances. It’s easy to justify a foamy cappuccino for a Friday morning treat or a quick manicure before date night—and when you’re not tracking your spending, all of those seemingly-small indulgences actually add up to a lot of potential savings.
You can’t save what you spend, so if you’re trying to cut down on expenses, follow these tips for a successful 7-day spending detox—you got it, no spending *any* money for 7 days.
Before you make the oath, let me assuage your nerves. I started doing money detoxes without trying to. Some nights, I would reflect on the day and think, “Wow, I didn’t spend any money today!” I thought it was cool to make it through a day without giving up more of my paycheck than I had to, and decided to make it a permanent fixture in my routine. Along with some other hacks, it helped me save 25k in a year.
This detox is in no way meant as a way to punish yourself or an indication that spending money is bad. I could save more than I do, but I put extra cash towards flight deals because I’m a jet-setting junkie and couldn’t live without travel. Enjoy life in whatever ways make you happy—and relish the new mindfulness this detox inspires.
Mark your calendar
Seven days is a long time to not spend any money. Literally, everything has a price. Oh, forgot your water bottle for the gym? That’ll be $2.50. Don’t have dressing for your homemade salad? That’s 50 cents at the corner deli. But here’s some good news: you don’t have to do it all at once! After all, we’re here to form sustainable good practices; this isn’t a “no-carbs for a week then devour a sleeve of Oreos” situation. (I know from… ahem… personal experience that does not achieve long-term goals.)
Look at your calendar and choose 7 days over the next 2 months—or cut it to 1 month if you’re feeling ambitious—and take a fat marker to circle your chosen no-spend days. You can choose 1 day per week or cluster 2 days together. Or maybe you follow a weekend away with 2 no-spend days; try whatever feels right for your lifestyle.
This one is definitely easier said than done. There are bound to be situations where you find yourself in a jam, whether it’s forgetting your subway card on the counter or coughing up cash for an office birthday. It’s okay, life happens. What you can do is make an effort to prepare for the unexpected—especially on a no-spend day.
For example, I like to plan my zero-dollar days for Monday and Tuesday because I shop for groceries on Sunday and treat myself to real coffee (aka not office coffee) later in the week. I pre-pack my breakfasts and lunches Sunday night (oatmeal packets and salads from Trader Joe’s), set a reminder on my phone, and bring my low-cost, ready-to-go meals to the office on Monday. In the evenings, I go to the gym (pre-paid memberships count as no-spend!) and make dinner with ingredients from Sunday night’s grocery run.
I should note that I’m lucky enough to walk to and from work, which is friendly to the environment and my wallet. If you drive to work or take public transportation, ensure you have enough gas in the tank or money on your card to get you through your no-spend days.
We have a tendency to stress out when we think about limiting ourselves, which is totally normal. We live in a world full of conveniences and instant gratification, which we often take for granted. A spending detox reinforces the fact that if you put your mind to it, you can save money. You may even find that it’s easier than you initially thought.
Now that I’m conditioned to scheduling no-spend days as I would dinner plans, it’s something I look forward to. It forces me to think twice about impulse purchases I might normally make. No-spend days are also a helpful way to add structure and balance to my week. I go straight to the gym after work, make dinner, and settle into a low-key evening.
After completing a full 7-day financial detox, you’ll have a better picture of any unhealthy spending you do and a greater appreciation for your money. And the confidence you’ll gain from banking the money you’ve saved is priceless.